Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Meatballs

Oh, hi there!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend. We experienced some lovely weather in Pittsburgh which is always an instant mood lifter. Everything is in bloom and we are starting to see green. I think we can say that spring has finally arrived (does cartwheels and cheers loudly). My number one priority is to spend as much time outside soaking up those Vitamin D filled sun rays.

What books are you reading? I have been trying to read more but I am the worst at finding new books to read. I don’t typically subscribe to whatever the latest suggestion is on the Oprah book club list. In my mind, I am convinced that there is no way I’ll like whatever she likes. I don’t even know why I think that since I have read books from the list and enjoyed them. Maybe I need to stop being so stubborn…someday. So, anyhow, I just finished reading Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. When I first started reading it I liked it a lot but then the more I read the less interested I was. The story was ok, a little hard to relate to the characters and the dialogue was a bit unrealistic in my opinion. There is a lot of high level adult kind of talking between the main character and her 7-year-old son. I am not sure what 7-year-old talks that way but maybe that’s the power of fiction. well, I think I just wanted it to be a little bit more exciting and it wasn’t.

I just started reading The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. So far it is interesting but I am only a chapter or two in. I’ll report back once I finish to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, send me your recommendations! I need funny or exciting stories. I also watched Big Little Lies on HBO which is based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, I have a feeling I would like her other books or something similar. So yeah, leave me your suggestions in the comments. I really want to know what you have been reading lately.

Switching topics, which I like to do a lot and even say it out loud when I am doing it during a real conversation. I think people love talking to me, haha. But seriously, you know how some people talk about dreaming about something and then being struck with some genius idea? I am finding that this is happening a lot more as I have gotten older. I wake up with lots of ideas of things I dreamt about or things that pop in to my head just as I am waking up. There is probably some scientific reason for that right? I bet someone can tell me why I have all these moments of brilliance early in the morning. On the flip side of things, if something is stressing me out or I have to deal with a difficult situation I wake up playing out the whole thing in my head thinking that this is how I’ll handle it but then when I get to point where I need to handle it, I forget everything that I had rehearsed in my head. Strange.



You were probably wondering where this was going? Well, turns out I had one of those moments of genius that lead to the creation of this dish. I woke up one day and was like, “I am going to make a baked rigatoni pasta with meatballs and it will be delicious”. I bet this is what happens to all those famous chefs. Moments of genius. I am guessing that what really happened is I saw something on a menu or Pinterest and it inspired me and then my subconscious reminded me about it in some weird half dream/half awake state. The good news is I knew exactly how I wanted it to be and so I just had to execute it.

I wanted to bake this in a cast iron skillet (another aspect my subconscious determined for me). I used to be very timid about using my cast iron skillet because then I would have to clean it and of course I could probably do that wrong and the whole thing would rust and then no more cast iron skillet for me. Turns out you can avoid all that if you just read up on how to clean a cast iron skillet…easy right? I know! So, hop to it on the cast iron cooking cause it’s fun and stuff.

Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Meatballs

Baked Rigatoni with Chicken Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 14.05 oz Cans of tomato Sauce
  • 3 Garlic Cloves Crushed
  • 1 Tsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp. Fresh Oregano minced
  • 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil (separated)
  • I pkg. Ground Chicken
  • 1 Tsp. Paprika
  • 2 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tsp. Basil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Pkg. Rigatoni Noodles
  • 1 Cup Shredded Parmesan or other Italian Cheese
  • Fresh Mozzarella Sliced

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Start by making your sauce:
  • Combine tomato sauce, garlic, sugar, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and a tbsp. of olive oil in a pot and bring to a simmer.
  • Allow sauce to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste and continue simmering until ready for use.
  • While the sauce is cooking, place the ground chicken in a bowl with the paprika, garlic powder, bread crumbs, egg, basil, and salt and pepper.
  • Combine all ingredients together.
  • Using your hands roll the chicken into small meatballs (tip: wetting your hands will help with rolling the chicken).
  • Prepare your rigatoni by brining a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Add your noodles and cook according to the instructions on the box.
  • Drain and set aside until for use.
  • As your noodles cook, heat your cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  • Add a 2 tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat.
  • Cook your meatballs in the skillet, turning to brown on all sides.
  • Once meatballs are cooked through place on a plate and set aside until ready for assembling.
  • Clean out your skillet and ladle a little of the sauce on the bottom.
  • Spoon a few noodles on top of the sauce followed by a few meatballs, a handful of shredded cheese and another layer of sauce.
  • Repeat layering (like you are making a lasagna) until you reach the end of the sauce.
  • Place slices of fresh mozzarella on top and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until mozzarella is melted and starts to brown.
  • If the mozzarella is not as brown and bubbly as you'd like place it under the broiler for a few seconds.
  • Finish with a dash of basil and extra cheese, enjoy!
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